A conservation group has added 651 acres to its holdings along Pine Mountain as it continues working to piece together a 125-mile long protected wildlife corridor the length of the mountain between Bell and Pike counties.
The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust acquired the land in three tracts in Bell County. The largest was 560 acres on the south side of Pine Mountain, according to a news release.
The trust has added nearly 4,000 acres in Bell and Harlan counties in the last year to what it calls the Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor.
“We have been historically successful over the last year” in completing deals to add land to the corridor, said Hugh Archer, executive director of the trust.
Some of those deals took years to arrange, in part because of the need to deal with multiple landowners. There were 26 stockholders in one large tract of land the trust recently added, Archer said.
The trust announced a push in early 2015 to raise $10 million in donations and buy a total of 9,000 acres.
The trust used money from a variety of sources for the 651-acre purchase just announced, including funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and donations from Christina Lee Brown of Louisville; Tom Dupree, Sr. of Lexington; Snowy Owl Foundation; Forecastle Foundation; and others, according to a release.
Pine Mountain provides important habitat for nearly 100 rare species among its thick trees, bogs, caves and streams. The mountain shelters a third of the state’s endangered species
It also provides nesting areas and a migratory route for birds, protects the headwaters of the Cumberland and Kentucky rivers and includes the largest known tract of old-growth forest in the state, which is in the Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve in Harlan County.
The Pine Mountain corridor would include a section of the planned Great Eastern Trail, an 1,800-mile hiking route from New York to Alabama.
“This is our part of it, which would bring tourism,” Archer said.
The trust calls the Pine Mountain corridor the largest land-conservation effort in state history.
Archer said conservation groups are approaching the point of having half the mountain protected.
The trust doesn’t own all that land. It’s in the hands of state nature preserves, publicly-owned forests, state parks and wildlife management areas.